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Sunshine state shakedown: A mix of new laws take effect in Florida

From school chaplains to bear encounters: 182 new laws reshape Florida's landscape

Floridians, you've been bracing for a wave of change! On July 1st, a whopping 182 new laws came into effect, significantly impacting everything from how teenagers worked to how residents interacted with wildlife. Here at Calle Ocho News, we've sifted through the legalese to bring you a breakdown of some of the most noteworthy changes.

The Child Labor Law gets an update

Florida's teenagers can rejoice (with a touch of caution from some corners). The Sunshine State's revamped child labor law, CS/CS/HB 49, eased restrictions on working hours for 16 and 17-year-olds. Now, they can work extended shifts on holidays and Sundays, potentially gaining valuable experience and extra income. Even looser reins are placed on virtual and homeschooled students when it comes to employment opportunities.

This change sparks a debate. Proponents, like 16-year-old Jackson Lowe, see it as a chance to bolster resumes and prove themselves to employers. Lowe was quoted saying that this opportunity would provide him with many more chances to prove his abilities to his bosses. However, critics voice concerns about potential safety risks and a possible decline in academic focus for working students.

Heat or no heat, the state takes control

For Florida's often-parched workforce, the new law CS/CS/HB 433 might feel like a cold splash of reality. While the state previously lacked a statewide policy on mandatory heat breaks for outdoor workers, this law changes that.

However, the twist is that the power now lies with the state, effectively preventing local municipalities from enacting their heat-related regulations. This move dismantles Miami-Dade County's efforts to establish water and rest requirements for workers, raising concerns about employee well-being in Florida's notoriously hot climate.

Chaplains in the halls

Schools across Florida have seen a new face: volunteer chaplains. Authorized under HB 931, these chaplains can now offer counseling services to students in both public and charter schools. However, safeguards are put in place, requiring chaplains to disclose their religious affiliation and the nature of their services, as well as undergo a background check. Additionally, students can only avail themselves of these services with parental permission.

The introduction of chaplains is met with mixed reactions. Supporters view it as an expansion of support options for students. However, critics, like Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones, highlight potential violations of the separation of church and state. "I think so," Jones is quoted as saying, expressing concerns about potential legal challenges.

Interestingly, even The Satanic Temple, a civil liberties organization known for using religious symbols to advocate for separation of church and state, expressed interest in participating as chaplains.

"2022: The year of the cloud"

Combating Political Deception

Florida also took a stand against misleading political advertisements. CS/HB 919 tackled the issue of artificial intelligence (AI) being used to create deceptive political ads. The law mandates that any political ad employing AI-generated images, videos, or audio depicting fabricated scenarios must include a clear and prominent disclaimer. Failure to comply comes with penalties ranging from civil fines to a potential misdemeanor charge, carrying the risk of jail time.

Florida vs. Bears

Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law took a wild turn. CS/HB 87 granted residents the legal right to use deadly force against bears if they perceive themselves, their pets, or their property to be in danger.

This law, nicknamed by some as "Stand Your Ground Against Bears," allows for lethal force as a means of self-defense in specific situations. However, it comes with caveats. Residents cannot deliberately put themselves at risk of a bear encounter, and any use of force against a bear must be reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) within 24 hours.

The law has its share of supporters, like State Senator Corey Simon, who emphasizes public safety. "Last year alone, Franklin County fielded 1,000 calls related to bear-related issues," Simon is quoted as saying. However, conservation groups like Bear Warriors United express strong disapproval.

They argue that the law's broad language could lead to unnecessary bear killings and advocate for stricter measures to manage food waste disposal, a known attractant for bears. Katrina Shadix, a representative of the group, fears the law will exacerbate bear extinction in the state.

Additionally, anyone over 7 years old could no longer intentionally release balloons, facing a littering offense if caught. Finally, victims of abuse at the Dozier School for Boys received compensation from the state. This was a long-awaited victory for survivors.

Calle Ocho News delivers the latest news on Florida’s legal landscape. Sign up to get the free newsletter in your inboxes. For businesses looking to gain more traction, reach out to us for advertising services.

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